EGG HARBOR CITY — It’s been nearly 20 years since students at the Fanny D. Rittenberg Middle School participated in a year-long art project that taught them about the city’s rich German heritage. On Saturday, Aug. 22, their work was displayed for all to see.

A six-panel mural was installed on the now vacant Weisbecker’s Dry Cleaners building on the 100 block of Philadelphia Avenue.

The installation was funded through the city’s Neighborhood Preservation Program, headed by former Hamilton Township planner Phil Sartorio. The mural installation was one of the recommendations coming from a series of public meetings held last year to beautify the downtown business district and attract tenants for vacant storefronts.

Art teacher Karen Porreca helped students research and select scenes of Egg Harbor City from photographs in the Egg Harbor City Historical Society’s Roundhouse Museum.

“We actually took the students to the Roundhouse Museum to learn about the city’s history and selected the scenes they felt most appropriately represented the city’s history,” Porreca said. “The people at the Historical Society were very gracious and extremely happy to share old photographs with us.”

The scenes were assembled into a photo collage to develop the three-dimensional design. Students were taught how to incorporate color to enhance the design and transfer it to six sheets of plywood.

Students worked on the project during an extra art class held during the 2003-2004 school year. After budget cuts forced her from full-time to part-time status, the extra art class was eliminated, and students worked on a volunteer basis over the following summer to complete the mural.

Originally, the mural was to be installed on the blank wall at the old Vignalli’s Shoe Store at 155 Philadephia Ave., but when the owner of the building realized holes would be drilled into the brick, the project was put on hold.

The mural was stored in a storage area at the Rittenberg School, until the Board of Education abandoned the building and agreed to build a new school. The Rittenberg school, which for generations served as the Egg Harbor City High School until the Greater Egg Harbor Regional District was formed, became a middle school and was named after the high school’s most beloved English teachers. When the new Egg Harbor City Community School on Havana Avenue was built in 2011, old school was razed and is now the site of the Rittenberg Manor senior housing apartments.

A local resident held the mural safely in storage for the past 11 years.

Mayor Lisa Jiampetti recognized the hard work and dedication of the students who painted the mural and made it her goal to install it somewhere in town.

When Porreca, who retired in 2019 after 23 years in Egg Harbor City, received news that the mural was erected on Philadelphia Avenue, she dug through her old school files and found a folder filled with photographs of her students at work.

“I really appreciate all Mayor Jiampetti has done to get the mural out in a public venue. She has been talking about it for years,” Porreca said.

Since the mural was installed, residents, including some of the students who worked on it, stopped by to take photos in front of the mural.

“Wow, I can’t believe it’s finally up,” said Matthew Galloway, who is now 31 years old. “It would be great to get some of the kids together for a photo in front of the mural.”

Jiampetti said the mural means a lot to the city, which has received “Opportunity Zone” status that provides tax incentives for investors.

Efforts are underway to complete the mural installation, which includes sprucing up the building, installing a frame around the painting and coating it with a preservative finish.

The city would also like to locate the students who worked on the project for a photo opportunity.

Egg Harbor City mural artists

• Aaron Dixon

• Alcides DeJesus

• Alecia Ellis

• Amy Heuman

• Andrea Donoflio

• Andrea Weaver

• Andrew Gonzalez

• Angela Peterson

• Appolonia Martin

• Ariel Colon

• Arlayna Rivera

• Briar Gibbons

• Catherine Malaspina

• Chardea Robinson

• Cheyenne Smith

• Cierra Cahpman

• Corissa Rodriguez

• Daniel Rodriguez

• Danny Phan

• Darice Collier

• Dupree Hamilton

• Edmarie Alvarado

• Edwin Acevedo

• Ernest Rhett

• Evanie Silva

• Giovanni Guzman

• Giovanni Febres

• Heather Sikorsky

• Hiraliz Matos

• Iris Rodriguez

• Jacqueline Trower

• Jihira Alicea

• James Sweeney

• Jason Watts

• Jason Degand

• Jelishka Maldonado

• Jennifer Ortiz

• Jessica Fane

• Jessica Lopez

• Joey Sprague

• Josh Shipley

• Josh Suriano

• Josh Brown

• Juan Davila

• Justine Rivera

• Katie Reilly

• Katie Williams

• Katrina Vega

• Keanu Jones

• Keishly Dominguez

• Keith Armour

• Keith Purnell

• Kisha Collier

• Kristin Bennett

• Kristy Morganweck

• Kylene Farnan

• Lashay Flamer

• Leah Campbell

• Lindsey Zuber

• Louis Rivera

• Louis Rodriguez

• Luis Figueroa

• Malique Graves

• Mark Kienzle

• Mary Kate Farnan

• Matt McGinnis

• Matt Galloway

• Melanie Montgomery

• Melissa Malpica

• Miguel Jardines

• Nevasha Rodriguez

• Paul Winters

• Paul Sicurella

• Renee Roff

• Ricky Pacheco

• Robert Hernandez

• Roger Handy

• Ruth Castillo

• Samantha Lleras

• Sandra Dyer

• Scott Gentry

• Scotty Shievdayal

• Sierra Allen

• Stephen DeStefano

• Tatiana Gilliard

• Thalia Rhett

• Tony Darpino

• Tornell Hawthorne

• Tyandra Allen

• Zeke Villlanueva

Load comments